PRODUCT REVIEW: Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Cycling Computer
Author: Tim Lofthouse Date Posted: 1 November 2016
Will Wahoo's ELEMNT cycling computer finally beat out industry leader Garmin?
Despite countless attempts by others to challenge them for their spot at the pinnacle of the GPS cycling computer range, Garmin has reigned supreme since the release of their Garmin Edge 500 head unit back in 2009. But early this year, Wahoo Fitness (known globally for the success of their KICKR trainers) announced the release of their GPS cycling computer, the Wahoo ELEMNT.
The religious use of Garmin computers and monitors throughout the pro-peloton has made it virtually impossible for their competitors to gain any sort of traction in the market. With this in mind, Wahoo knew they were going to have to bring something to the table which Garmin hadn’t previously to have any chance of challenging the brand with the flawless resume. And it seems that’s what Wahoo has done.
The ELEMNT is the easiest GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ANT+ compatible cycling computer to configure and operate available, thanks to its innovative smart-phone compatibility features. Through the ELEMNT App, right from start-up, users are given complete customisation control of the unit. This means users can select exactly what data fields they want on what pages, and can toggle between the display of 1-8 during the ride depending on how much data you want to be seeing and the size of their display.
In terms of the more technical stuff, the ELEMNT comes with your basic host of speed, distance and time data fields built in, and pairs with all ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors (including Garmin). But flick through the data field options on your smartphone and you will very quickly overwhelm yourself with the breadth of data available to you, including features such as percentage of FTP and even works with BSXInsight and Moxy Muscle Oxygen Sensors. The ELEMNT also features turn-by-turn navigation and is compatible with all electronic group sets.
But that’s enough of the standard specs, below are a number of the features which I personally think make this computer worth your time and money:
- Selecting and prioritising data and display is a breeze, and can be done mid-ride from your smartphone (I do advise stopping to configure it however).
- If you’re a fan of a bit of elevation, the climbing specific data is miles ahead of anything attempted by Garmin and other competitors.
- The ‘profile worm’ is a nice visual break from numerical values, and allows you to physically see what you’ve done and what lays ahead elevation wise.
- The programmable LED QuickLook functionality is great for quick glancing and dark mornings, and can be set to target power, speed or heart rate zones.
- If you’re a Strava Premium member, you are in for a treat, because the live segment feature is not only hugely effective, it makes punishing yourself pretty damn fun. You can choose to verse your PR or go for the overall KOM, and the ELEMNT will tell you how far ahead or behind the time you are, a projected finishing time (which is surprisingly accurate), and gives you a visual profile graph of your progress.
- Smartphone alerts for phone calls and messages are handy if you are anything like me, and need to reply to your significant other instantaneously.
- Unlike Garmin, the ELEMNT comes with a selection of three mounts – out front, TT bar and stem. (Note: The ELEMNT does not fit Garmin mounts, but you can buy an adapter which enables you to)
And as far as Cons go:
- While the battery life is good, Gamin is still slightly better. I currently get about three 4hr days out of mine when paired with my phone, HR monitor and power meter. Those who are on the bike for an hour or so a day should get a week.
- Has crashed three times in the 6 months I have had it where the screen freezes. This is easily rectified if you hold the power button down for about 10 seconds which resets the device, but not so great if you’re in the middle of a session.
- As far as aesthetics go, the unit is fairly chunky, and not as sleek as the Garmin Edge 1000 and 820.
All in all, the Wahoo ELEMNT is a great unit for cyclists of any calibre, particularly those using smartphones and Strava frequently. If you need any further reassurance, being a coached athlete and training 20+ hours a week, the unit more than meets my needs.
EDIT: Wahoo has also since released the ELEMNT BOLT, a highly price-competitive cycling computer. Our staff member Tim also reviewed this unit; you can read his impressions in the blog post 'Performance Refined - The Wahoo ELELMNT BOLT'. In addition, Wildfire Sports & Trek no longer carries the Garmin Edge 1000 and 820; a popular replacement product is the Garmin Edge 830.